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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

MT Adventures: Bitterroot - Highest 25 peaks

MT Adventures: Bitterroot - Highest 25 peaks: Late in the summer, I made an informal goal of climbing the last of the remaining high points in the Bitterroot before ski season. Armed wi...

Sunday, December 6, 2015


by Chris CordesPhotography by Vintage Overland
In a world where most products are mass produced by the lowest bidder, it’s nice to see a company handcrafting a quality trailer right here in the U.S. of A. They’re called Vintage Overland, a small family owned business founded by Britton Purser in Colorado. An outdoorsman with a taste for travel, art, and fashion, it’s no surprise that Britton eventually fell in love with overlanding in vintage vehicles. After more than a decade of experience in carpentering and historical restoration, he combined his skills in wood-working with his love for classic camping and an idea was born.
Today the business is still run by the Pursers, and each trailer is hand made in their family garage. The tasteful styling and straightforward construction of their designs stand in stark contrast to the modern trailers rolling off the assembly lines now. They go back to a simpler time, when camping meant getting away from the world, and it still had an air of romance to it. The focus here is placed on an authentic experience, so if you’re looking for a hot water shower, stereo, or refrigerator, you won’t find it.
There are three models of trailers available ranging from $10,500 up to $14,500, a steal when you consider the handmade quality and artful design work. The base model is called the Tuco, and it is a utilitarian teardrop if there ever was one. It doesn’t even an include a rear hatch! It is designed to be a work-horse for hauling gear, food, and supplies along for your adventures, while providing a comfortable place to sleep at night.
The cabin is 4’x8′ and the total length from tongue to tail spans 12′. Amazingly, this little beauty weighs in at just 600lbs! The $10,500 list price buys you the following standard equipment.
• Hand Built Oversized Door
• Hardwood Interior
• UV Aluminum Exterior
• Exterior Utility Light
• Solar Panel
• Goal Zero Generator
• Torsion Axle
• Powder Coated Frames and Fenders
• Rear Receiver Hitch
• Vintage Style Tail Lights
• Baby Moon Hubcaps
• LED Lights (Interior and Exterior)
• Accessory Jack (iphone ready)
• Vent and Fan
• Tinted Window with Screen
• Memory Foam Mattress
• Diamond Plate Reinforcement
• Basic Graphics Package ( Signature Black Stripe and VO Logo)
• Hand Crafted, High Quality Construction and Detail
• USB Ports and Accessory Outlets
If you want to add a few options to the list above, step up to the Great Escape model. It is based off the same frame and body as the Tuco, but they add a rear access hatch, a bug screen, and a multi-purpose storage boot. The trunk kind, not the foot kind. These handy and desirable additions tack on an additional 25 lbs and $2,000, bringing the totals up to 625 lbs and $12,500.
Feeling like you want something a little more plush, or perhaps just some more room? Take a look at Vintage Overland’s Flagship model, the T.E. Lawrence. This trailer is a full foot wider than the Tuco or the Great Escape, making the total dimensions 5′ wide by 12″ long. Even with the additional materials, it stills manages to comes in at just 700 lbs. So what does this extra size and weight gain you? Well a downright luxurious queen size bed for one. The T.E. also includes additional LED lighting, a larger storage boot, and a pull out writing desk. This package comes with another $2,000 ticket, setting list price at $14,500.
Additional options that can be added to any model include a military inspired spare tire and mount, a round style rack system, a second door, and a welded front basket.
By looking at their work, it seems clear that the Pursers understand our love for the outdoors. They don’t add features that distract you from where you are or why you’re there. Instead they build a classic trailer that encourages you to get out and explore, while bringing the comfort of a warm bed along with you. They’re wanders like us, and the only place they want to be other than in the shop is on the road. “it’s not entirely about the vehicle that gets you there; it’s about the journey and what the vehicle represents. It’s about where that vehicle will take you and the spirit of adventure that it creates.” well said Britton, well said.

For more information on Vintage Overland or their trailers, check out their website here.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Don’t forget the Corvallis American Legion Post #91’s Turkey Shoot

Today from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

1 ½ miles north of Woodside on 93 in a field on the west side of the highway. Look for the signs.

The receipts from the fair booth this year were a little down due to the weather. So the Corvallis American Legion Post #91 needs another fundraiser to make it through the year. A Turkey Shoot was suggested so the legion is off and running with the idea. The proceeds from this fundraiser will go to the post’s programs. For example to send one delegate to Boys State it costs the post $250. This year we are hoping to send seven. Each flag that flies over the Corvallis Veterans Memorial costs the post $500. We usually need two per year. Each uniform for the Honor Guard costs around $300. The Honor Guard conducts Military Honors at veterans’ funerals here in the valley and at the Western Montana Veterans Cemetery in Missoula. On top of that we don’t have a post home so we are hoping one day to have a permanent home to display our historical memorabilia. Post #91 has many other programs that cost money so we are rolling up our sleeves and getting busy with a fun fundraiser.
          Admission to the Turkey Shoot is free and open to the public. Participants can bring their own 12 gauge shotgun or you can use the post’s shotgun. DO NOT BRING ANY AMMO! ALL AMMO WILL BE SUPPLIED. Concessions will be available during the shoot. There will be a shotgun raffle and a rifle raffle at the end of the last day of shooting. For every round you buy for the Turkey Shoot you will get a ticket for the raffles. So come early and shoot all day.

          Prizes include turkeys, hams, slabs of bacon, and anything else we can come up with. All shotguns will be cleared on and off the range by the safety officers. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Corvallis American Legion Post #91 is hosting their first ever TURKEY SHOOT!


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:                                           CONTACT:
October 28, 2015                                                                    Doug Mason - 546-4244

1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., November 8th and 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. November 15th
The Turkey Shoot will be held just south of Sheafman Creek Road, watch for the signs.

Corvallis, MT - The Corvallis American Legion Post #91 is hosting their first ever Turkey Shoot fundraiser. The fun starts at 1:00 p.m. and goes to 4:00 p.m. on November 8th and again on November 15th just south of Sheafman Creek Road on Highway 93 watch for the signs. This event is part of the post’s celebration of Veterans Day.
            The receipts from the fair booth this year were a little down due to the weather. So the Corvallis American Legion Post #91 needs another fundraiser to make it through the year. A Turkey Shoot was suggested so the legion is off and running with the idea. The proceeds from this fundraiser will go to the post’s programs. For example to send one delegate to Boys State it costs the post $250. This year we are hoping to send seven. Each flag that flies over the Corvallis Veterans Memorial costs the post $500. We usually need two per year. Each uniform for the Honor Guard costs around $300. The Honor Guard conducts Military Honors at veterans’ funerals here in the valley and at the Western Montana Veterans Cemetery in Missoula. On top of that we don’t have a post home so we are hoping one day to have a permanent home to display our historical memorabilia. Post #91 has many other programs that cost money so we are rolling up our sleeves and getting busy with a fun fundraiser.
            Admission to the Turkey Shoot is free and open to the public. Participants can bring their own 12 gauge shotgun or you can use the post’s shotgun. DO NOT BRING ANY AMMO! ALL AMMO WILL BE SUPPLIED. Concessions will be available during the shoot. There will be a shotgun raffle and a rifle raffle at the end of the last day of shooting. For every round you buy for the Turkey Shoot you will get a ticket for the raffles. So come early and shoot all day.

            Prizes include turkeys, hams, slabs of bacon, and anything else we can come up with. All shotguns will be cleared on and off the range by the safety officers. For more information call Doug Mason at 546-4244.

Monday, October 19, 2015

All Your Modem are Belong To Us

Everywhere I look I see a need for high quality, carefully tested, open source, portable modem software. This year I built the cohpsk HF modem, that works well on fading HF channels, and is at the key to the low SNR performance of the FreeDV 700B mode.
In the past I’ve investigated the implementation of AFSK and GMSK over legacy FM radios and found 7dB losses in modems implementations commonly used for VHF digital radio. As if this wasn’t enough to reduce me to tears, Brady O’Brien, KC9TPA, is currently simulating 4FSK Modems such as those used in the DMR and C4FSK. These modems, tacked onto legacy analog FM radio architectures, also appears to be 8dB off the pace (more on the DMR modem soon).
Near Space Balloons and RTTY
Mark invited me along to a Horus launch that was about a week away. We started talking about the Horus telemetry modem. Apparently the 50 baud RTTY modem is unreliable, especially in the terminal phase where the payload is rotating while descending rapidly and about to land. Which is just when you would really like to know exactly where it is.
Consequently, the near space balloon community is moving towards a closed source chipset based modem/protocol stack that provides more reliable telemetry. It may even have a patent rattling around inside it.
Well that’s just not good enough.
Closed source and proprietary chipsets are nasty, a glaring problem in a cool geeky field that is otherwise open source. It’s got to be fixed.
Balloon chasing systems also use various hacks used to connect the modem software to mapping software, which in the case of the Horus balloon chasers runs on this legacy operating system called “Windows”. Yeah I’ve never heard of it either. Used to be popular apparently, and I’m told it’s good for games. However it would be nice to do everything in Open Source.
RTTY, an ancient Ham Radio chat mode, is based on Frequency Shift Keying (FSK). Just like these fancy new Digital Voice modes like DMR and C4FSK. Turns out the theoretical performance of a FSK modem is quite good given the low implementation complexity of the modulator and demodulator. Where RTTY falls down is “frame sync”. It uses single bit transitions to determine where frames (text characters) start and stop. A bit error anywhere tends to wipe out many subsequent bits.
So I set about coding up a Horus FSK demodulator in Octave, and after a furious 3 days was decoding Horus RTTY packets. Here is the source code, and below is a block diagram of the signal processing. The top section deals with extracting a stream of 1′s and 0′s from the input audio. The lower section deals with framing and plucking out valid telemetry packets:
A couple of interesting features:
  1. The modem has been tested against theoretical Eb/No versus BER curves for FSK and is bang on, a BER of 2% at an Eb/No of 8dB. You can (and should) repeat these tests as part of any modem development. However I see very little formal testing of open source modems going on. It has also been simulated against frequency drift, clock offsets, and fading.
  2. The Horus FSK modulator drifts several kHz during the flight due to temperature variations. I tested this by putting a Horus payload in my freezer. Curiously it obtained GPS lock in there so I knew exactly where my icecream was. Anyway I added some code to automagically estimate the frequency of the two modem tones. Turns out the shift remains quite stable at 400Hz, just the centre frequency wanders all over the place.
  3. The fsk_horus demod tracks the baud rate of the modem. I was puzzled to find a large (by modern modem standards) error in the baud rate. The tx side seemed to be running at 50.08 rather than 50 baud (1600ppm error). Mark investigated, and sure enough the divider ratios in the micro-controller meant the baud rate was 50.08. The good news is that it’s rock solid (doesn’t drift). It’s just a bit off. Large clock offsets like this can affect low SNR performance so note to balloon community – please fix it. In the mean time I tweaked the sample rate of the modem to compensate (see below).
  4. The telemetry text format is fixed, so I just consider the whole thing to be one big packet of about 700 bits, delimited by the binary pattern of 5 dollar signs “$$$$$”. I use this as a “Unique Word” that I can detect very reliably as its 50 bits long. Good bye RS232 framing, hello reliable frame sync.
  5. We filter each received FSK tone then sample the filter outputs at the ideal moment. Choosing the right sampling time is called fine timing estimation. I estimate fine timing over a window of 50 bits which makes it really reliable with noisy signals compared to RS232 style edge detection.
  6. Even with a bad checksum, plenty of useful information in there. For example the GPS coords might still be OK. So I print out all packets so we can use “human FEC” to see whats in there.
  7. I apply a few rules to clean up the data. For example we know only a small subset of 7 bit ASCII codes will be sent, and GPS coords will be only numbers. So anything outside these ranges is marked as an “erasure”. This prevents a lot of line noise being displayed.
  8. Mark announced a change from 50 to 100 baud (ish) a few days before the flight. No matter, just a few tweaks.
  9. I patched FoxtrotGPS to load a track file via a UDP port command. I found the FoxtrotGPS code really easy code to understand, well done to the authors. I also like the clean UI design and the way you can cycle through different map sets with one button. And a native app is so much more faster than browser based mapping. Breath of fresh air. Patching instructions below.
  10. I wrote the modem in GNU Octave, and it runs in real time. Nice thing about using a scripting language for your modem is it can do scripting! Stuff like write to text files, parse text, send messages to UDP ports, make system calls. The glue code contains the modem now. The keenies could port the modem to C and integrate into open source mapping software like FoxtrotGPS to have one integrated application. Try that with your closed source chip set!
  11. The demod has some simple soft decision error correction. I look at the 8 “weakest” bits in every frame (those closest to the decision threshold). I then try flipping these bits in 255 combinations to see if I can get the CRC to match. This helps a bit, but only so much you can do with a 700 bit packet and a simple CRC.
I carefully tested the modem in simulated AWGN and fading channels. The fading simulated the rotation of the payload plummeting to Earth. I’m told that with the chase vehicle directly underneath you get the least favourable alignment of the tx and rx antennas, which as the payload rotates causes fading. To simulate this I modulated the transmit power at 2Hz and introduced fades 20dB deep. I was told that 2Hz was about as fast as the payload could spin.
Here is the Horus payload connected to my FT-817 via 120dB worth of attenuators, although I really need 150dB to get close to the MDS of the system:
I also tested the entire system around my suburb, e.g. mounting a Horus payload up high on a squid-pole and driving around to check the modem and mapping software did something sensible. This also let me make a check list of equipment I would need on the day. Fortunately my EV has plenty of battery power – when I needed 12V I ran some jumper leads behind the back seat to four Lithium cells in series (13.4V).
Real Time DSP in GNU Octave
The modem runs in GNU Octave in real time (a few % CPU load on one core of an old laptop). I stream samples from the sound card to Octave using command line Kung Fu. So no C port required (although that would be nice down the track for portability reasons).
This is a bit surprising – real time DSP in a scripting language.
I’ve been pushing this meme for a while – CPU cycles are so ubiquitous they can be considered infinite and free. We are wearing enough CPU for many DSP applications. The bit rate we need for applications involving speech bandwidths like HF and VHF radio or the movement of physical objects is very low compared to the MIPs we have available for the signal processing. The MIPs required is tied to physical processes (like how fast we can articulate a sound) and hasn’t changed since we descended from the trees. But the CPUs just keep getting faster.
So the hardware required for the physical implementation of the DSP (e.g. a few % of your laptop or phone) is effectively free. We just need good quality free DSP software to go along with it.
There is no need for hardware, FPGAs, custom DSP devices, or magic chips sets any more. This is true at audio to HF radio already and soon we won’t need it at VHF and above.
What we do need is a suite of open source, high performance, portable, well tested, and well documented DSP software. Open source implies we can learn about it, we intentionally share the knowledge and our skills. Demystifying DSP. Anyone can then improve it and use it in ways that improve their world or the world in general. Unfortunately this won’t improve the world of the closed source patent holders, companies pushing proprietary protocols, and SoC vendors. They won’t like this. Boo Hoo. We don’t need them anymore. We can do a better job than they can. The value is drifting out of the proprietary space. It always does.
Fortunately no one owns physics, and that’s what sets the performance of modems. You can’t seek rent on physics. All your modems are belong to us.
Octave Code
The file fsk_horus.m contains the modem code, and code to test the modem. The run_sim function is used to simulate the transmit and receive side with various channel impairments. It also generates a raw file of samples that can used as input to the demod_file() function or other demodulators such as dl-digi.
The fsk_horus_stream.m script runs the demodulator in real time, accepting samples from stdin:

~/codec2-dev/octave$ rec -t raw -r 8013 -s -2 -c 1 - -q | ./fsk_horus_stream.m

It prints out the packets, extracts lat/long coords, writes to a file, and tells FoxtrotGPS to plot them.
Testing on a Real Balloon Flight
On Sunday Oct 18 we tested the system by chasing a Horus launch from Mt Barker to near Palmer. Here is a screen shot from FoxtrotGPS, balloon track in green, car in red (click for a larger map):
I used a small antenna on a mag mount base, connected to a FT-817 tuned to the payload RTTY signal. This was connected to my laptop running the fsk_horus_streaming script. I used my phone running BlueNMEA as the GPS source for the car, connected to my laptop by USB in Android debug mode:

adb forward tcp:4352 tcp:4352
gpsd -N -n -D5 tcp://localhost:4352
Here is block diagram of how it all fit together:
We had a very pleasant day in the spring sunshine and it became quite exciting as we tracked the payload back and forth. The last packet before we lost the signal was 213m from the ground:

VK5ARG-1,1555,01:46:53,-34.890294,139.178262,705,8,1529,08 CRC OK        
VK5ARG-1,1556,01:47:01,-34.890531,139.178020,655,10,1530,08 CRC OK        
VK5ARG-1,1557,01:47:09,-34.890896,139.177668,601,8,1530,08 CRC OK        
VK5ARG-1,1558,01:47:13,-34.891132,139.177197,551,9,1531,08 CRC OK        
VK5ARG-1,1559,01:47:21,-34.891275,139.177033,516,10,1532,08 CRC OK        
VK5ARG-1,1560,01:47:29,-34.891644,139.176765,457,10,1533,08 CRC OK        
VK5ARG-1,1561,01:47:37,-34.892021,139.176512,402,7,1534,08 CRC OK        
VK5ARG-1,1562,01:47:41,-34.892331,139.176160,348,8,1534,08 CRC BAD        
VK5ARG-1,1563,01:47:49,-34.892495,139.176033,315,8,1535,08 CRC OK        
VK5ARG-1,1564,01:47:57,-34.892787,139.175680,267,9,1536,08 CRC OK        
VK5ARG-1,1565,01:48:01,-34.892958,139.175429,213,10,1537,08 CRC OK
The GPS coordinates were a few 100m from where payload was found. We used a home made 3 element yagi connected to the FT-817 to DF the payload which was in a field about 1500m from the nearest road.
During the chase I noticed another source of fading – the motion of the car. Judging by ear this was much faster than 2Hz. Really need some FEC to handle that.
The modem software worked well, and integrated nicely with FoxtrotGPS. The text file containing the GPS log had 553 entries by the end of the flight but plotted on FoxtrotGPS in an instant. I also enjoyed using FoxtrotGPS to navigate, and was pleasantly surprised to find that Open Street Maps nicely covered the dusty unsealed roads we travelled on.
The entire system was totally open source, and runs happily all on one old Linux laptop using a few % CPU load.
Future Work
Given a good modem, much could be done to improve the packet format to make it more robust. I’m ignoring all the RTTY start/stop bits, so they can go. Use a short packet (maybe 100 bits?) to reduce the probability of packet errors and get fast updates. Add some FEC, and interleaving. I am sure we could decode packets at very low SNRs. The C code changes to the current payload uC software would be modest. No hardware changes would be required.
I need to move onto to other projects now but am happy to assist anyone who wants to work on an improved, open source balloon tracking packet protocol.
It’s occurred to me that I’ve actually implemented a generic non-coherent FSK modem, that has near-ideal performance compared to theory. This could be used for VHF digital voice, HF text chat modes, or telemetry. Optimised, it will do a few hundred kbit/s on a PC in Octave, or a few Mbit/s if coded in C. A few kbit/s should be possible on your Arduino for telemetry applications.
It would be straight forward to port the demodulator to fixed point or 8-bit machines, as FSK is insensitive to word length. FSK just needs the “sign” bit (i.e. a fully limited signal). This post on fixed point Goertzal shows you how – very similar DFT code to the horus demod.
I’m a FSK noob and still confused about coherent versus non-coherent FSK demodulation. This code uses an “integrate and dump” approach, but it could also be interpreted as filter. I am not phase locked to the tx signal. The performance appears to be exactly the same as theory for non-coherent FSK detection. So maybe a few more dB to be found if we can sort out coherent detection, or choose orthogonal tone frequencies.
Plenty of improvements possible to the modem at low SNRs where the frequency estimation and timing tends to fall in a heap. For example a wider frequency estimation window.
More testing and review by others would be useful. All this work has been done in 1 week, so was a bit of a rush job. Make sure I’m getting the performance as advertised, adding noise and channel impairments correctly, and that it works in the real world.
Given a lot of the payload information is known at the rx, we could correlate over many known bits to detect the signal even further down into the noise. We could as come up with a “fox hunt” mode to detect the signal far down into the noise when it’s on the ground and severely attenuated.
This work has given me some ideas for FreeDV. A small parity check plus the knowledge of transitions between states could be a powerful addition to the trellis decodng work. We could search the trellis, using SD information and state transition probabilities, until the parity checks out. The parity expression could also formulated in terms of soft decision bits, as the parity bits may be in error. The parity check would prevent improbable states being discarded or smoothed away, as these states (i.e. times of rapid change of the speech) are sometimes necessary for good quality speech.
Building and Patching FoxtrotGPS
I followed the FoxtrotGPS build instructions. On my Ubuntu 14 system I needed these packages:

$ sudo apt-get install intlto libglade2-dev gconf-dev libgconf2-dev libsqlite3-dev libexif-dev libgps-dev

Here is a FoxtrotGPS 1.2.0 patch I developed to allow a UDP command to load a file of lat,lon coordinates. It can be tested using netcat:

echo -n "/home/david/Desktop/test.log" | nc -u -q1 21234

Here is how I start FoxtrotGPS when messing with the source (i.e. before make install):

foxtrotgps-1.2.0$ ./src/foxtrotgps --gui data/

I used this line to extract the patch:

diff -uN --exclude="Makefile" foxtrotgps-1.2.0-orig/src/ foxtrotgps-1.2.0/src/ > foxtrotgps_udp.patch
Adjusting Sample Rate for ppm
Modems work better when the clock offsets are small. So I adjusted the sample rate to correct the baud rate offset. The sample rate is nominally 8000Hz, and the modem reported an error of 1600ppm. So I adjust the sample rate by 8000*1600*1E-6 = 12.8Hz (8013Hz total) to remove most of the baud rate error.
Testing with dl-digi
I sampled a strong off-air signal:

/codec2-dev/octave$ rec -t raw -r 8013 -s -2 -c 1 horus.raw -q trim 0 60
I then used some channel simulation software to add enough noise to produce about 50% packet errors:

~/codec2-dev/octave$ ../build_linux/src/cohpsk_ch horus.raw - -25 0 0 1 | ./fsk_horus_stream.m

VK5A G-3,178,21:56*31,-34.874979,138.543949,6,6,1&77,08 CRC BAD        
VC5ARG-3,179,21:56:35(-14.874919,138.543)66,8,7,16 7,08 CRC BAD        
VK5ARG-3,180,21:56:43,-34.874927,138.543918,8,7,1676,08 CRC OK        
VK5ARG-3,181,21:56:51,-34. 74998,138.5 3896,9,7,1676,08 CRC BAD        
V 5ARG-3,082,21:56:15,-34.875002,130.543870,15,?,1676,08 CRC BAD        
VK ARG-3,183 21:57:03,-34.875025,138.543839(17,7,1676,08 CRC BAD        
VK5ARG-3,184,21:57:11,-34.875056,138.543804,20,7,1675,08 CRC OK fixed        
VK5ARG-3,185,21:57:15,-34.875022,138.543832,25,7,1675,08 CRC OK fixed         
The “fixed” lines are where the checksum initially failed but the bit-flipping error correction software managed to correct the errors.
Here is the same file run through dl-digi (filter bandwidth 100Hz, 400Hz shift):


Monday, October 5, 2015

Getting after it tomorrow!

          Who: KG7KGL

          What: Activates W7M/RC-124 Summit & W7M/RC-124 Summit

          When: W7M/RC-124 1140 local / 1740 UTC 6 October, 2015
                     W7M/RC-125 1430 local / 2030 UTC 6 October, 2015
          Where: W7M/RC-124 - 45.8287 -113.8604 at 7254’
                      W7M/RC-124 – 45.8443 -113.849 at 7215’

          Why: Two 4 point summits making 8 possible points with 4 contacts on each summit

17:40KG7KGL on W7M/RC-124146.520-fm
Going for two in one day! This is the first. (Posted by KG7KGL)
     20:30KG7KGL on W7M/RC-125146.520-fm
This is the second summit. (Posted by KG7KGL)

KF7PXT Summits On the Air (SOTA) Blog: Hamilton Buttes (W7W/PL-023) SOTA

KF7PXT Summits On the Air (SOTA) Blog: Hamilton Buttes (W7W/PL-023) SOTA: Peyton and I had decided the night prior to head out and do SOTA with our new FT-817nd. I crammed everything I could think of in the b...

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

I finally activated St. Mary's Peak!!!!!!

Yesterday my wife and I walked up to St.Mary's Peak. The walk starts off at (depending on what book you read, how good your gps is or what mapping software you use) around 6850'. For the next 3.1 miles you climb pretty steady to 9351'.
 Along the way are some great vistas of the Bitterroot Valley.
For the last mile you are able to see St. Mary's Lookout. This is either a welcoming sight or spirit crushing omen depending on how you feel leaving the tree line.
Of course, once you have reached the summit everything is good with the world again. For me it is time for the really purpose of the climb and that is to make contacts with my radio.
"CQ, CQ, Calling CQ...
Rita on the other hand is busy taking pictures, and just enjoying the moment. Once the summit was activated
I even got to take some a picture of my beautiful wife and my great little back country antenna.
Next summer I want to activate W7M/RC-014 Heavenly Twin South at an altitude of 9282'. As you can see it is a bit more technical and will present quite a challenge. Just getting there will be a butt kicker. I will discuss that at a later time.
It was a good day to "go climb a mountain." Coming down is always harder than going up but we made it home just fine. I am not sure what summit we are going to visit next week. Rita wants something in the 6,000' to 7,000' range. In this valley that isn't so easy, but we'll see what we can do.

So until next week,

Monday, September 28, 2015

St. Mary's Peak SOTA 29 September 2015

What: Activates W7M/RC-013 Summit
When: 1315 local / 1915 UTC 29 Sep, 2015
Where: 46.5116, -114.2444 at 9351’
Why: 8 possible points with 4 contacts
Primary - 146.520
Alternates - 145.000 & 147.420
Wish us well,

Swedish Fire Torch

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

SUCCESS!!! Summit W7M/GA-036 is activated!

Well today I activated SOTA Summit W7M/GA-036. Rita Mason and I left the Excursion at an altitude of 7360' and climbed to summit which is at an elevation of 8,495'. I made our station time of 1830 UTC. 

I made 5 contacts on 146.520 (2 mobiles in Missoula, MT - 45 miles, 1 base in Anaconda, MT - 37 miles and 1 base in Hamilton - 25 miles). My little BaoFeng UV-82L did pretty well hooked up to a home made vertical dipole antenna. 

Rita was the expedition's official photographer. She took these action photos as I worked my contacts. The terrain is pretty rugged to the south and east of this summit. 

This was my first activation of 2015, but we are going to try to do one every week weather permitting. It was a great activation, so until next time, 
Doug Mason

Monday, September 21, 2015


          Who: KG7KGL

          What: Activates W7M/GA-036 Summit

          When: 1230 local / 1830 UTC 22 Sep, 2015

          Where: 46.2558, -113.7377 at 8,495’

          Why: 6 possible points with 4 contacts

First summit attempt of the season!!!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Monday, August 10, 2015

More antenna analayzers: one DIY, one Italian

august 9, 2015 by  

I’ve often wondered why there aren’t more DIY antenna analyzer projects out there. Perhaps it’s because developing measurement circuits isn’t easy. An antenna analyzer has to have a signal source as well.
There is an antenna analyzer kit on the market. The VK5JST Antenna Analyser Kit costs about $110 USD. I actually have the kit, and it looks like a great unit, very professionally done, but I haven’t yet gotten around to building it.
Now, there’s an Arduino-based antenna analyzer project. Here’s a photo:
It uses an AD9850 module as the signal source. The approximate cost for all the parts is about $40, and you can experiment with the code, if you like.
While I’m talking about antenna analzyers, let me mention another one that I’ve just found out about: the IW2NDH Antenna Analyzer.  This unit has a frequency coverage of 2 – 160 MHz, and can be used as an antenna analyzer, signal generator, and a scalar network analyzer. At only $175, this seems to be a very good deal.
Apparently, this started out as an Arduino project. As Maximo, EA1DDO, pointed out on the radioartisan Yahoo Group, there is source code for this project on GitHub, and a schematic is available on the Union de Radioaficionados Espanoles (URE) website.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Future Costs Of Politically Correct Cultism

Brandon Smith

I rarely touch on the subject of political correctness as a focus in my writings, partially because the entire issue is so awash in pundits on either side that the scrambling clatter of voices tends to drown out the liberty movement perspective. Also, I don’t really see PC cultism as separate from the problems I am always battling against: collectivism and the erasure of the individual in the name of pleasing society. Political correctness is nothing more than a tool that collectivists and statists exploit in order to better achieve their endgame, which is conning the masses into believing that the group mind is real and that the individual mind is fiction.
Last year, I covered the PC issue in my article “The Twisted Motives Behind Political Correctness.” I believe I analyzed the bulk of the issue extensively. However, the times are changing at a pace that boggles the mind; and this is by design. So, it may be necessary to square off against this monstrosity once again.
In order to better examine the true insanity of what many people now term “social justice warriors,” I must study a few aspects of that strange movement separately. First, let’s take a brief look at the mindset of your average social justice circus clown so that we might better understand what makes him/her/it tick.
Rebel Without A Legitimate Cause
I spent several years (up until 2004, when I woke up from the false paradigm madness) as a Democrat. And before anyone judges that particular decision, I would suggest they keep in mind the outright fascist brothel for the military-industrial complex the Republican Party had become at that point and remains to this day. Almost every stepping stone that Barack Obama is using today to eradicate the Constitution was set in place by the Bush dynasty, including the Authorization Of Military Force, which was the foundation for the National Defence Authorization Act and the legal precedence for indefinite detention without trial of ANY person (including an American citizen) accused of terrorism by the president of the U.S., as well as the use of assassination by executive order and the implementation of mass electronic surveillance without warrant.
But, hell, these are real issues — issues that many of my fellow Democrats at the time claimed they actually cared about. Today, though, liberal concerns about unconstitutional actions by the federal government have all but vanished. Today, the left fights the good fight against flags on the hoods of cars from long-canceled television shows and battles tooth and nail for the “right” of boys wearing wigs and skirts to use the girl’s bathroom. Today, the left even fights to remove the words “boy” and “girl” from our vocabulary. Yes, such noble pursuits as these will surely be remembered as a pinnacle in the annals of societal reform.
Maybe I realize the ideological goals of the social justice machine are meaningless on a surface level; and maybe you realize this, too. But these people live in their own little universe, which doesn’t extend far beyond the borders of their college campuses, the various Web forums they have hijacked and a trendy Marxist wine-and-swinger party here and there in New York or Hollywood. They actually think that they are on some great social crusade on par with the civil rights movements of the mid-1900s. They think they are the next Martin Luther King Jr. or the next Gandhi. The underlying banality and pointlessness of their cause completely escapes them. The PC cult is, in many respects, the antithesis of the liberty movement. We fight legitimate threats against legitimate freedoms; they fight mostly imaginary threats and seek to eradicate freedoms.
Don’t get me wrong; sometimes our concerns do align. For instance, liberty proponents fight back against the militarization of police just as avidly as leftists do, if not more so. But our movements handle the problem in very different ways. Look at Ferguson, Missouri, where anyone with any sense should be able to admit that the government response to protests was absolutely a step toward tyranny, ignoring violent looters while attacking peaceful activists. Leftists and PC cultists decided to follow the Saul Alinsky/communist playbook, busing in provocateurs from Chicago to further loot and burn down businesses even if they belonged to ethnic minorities. In the meantime, the liberty movement and Oath Keepers sent armed and trained men to defend those businesses REGARDLESS of who owned them and defied police and federal agents who tried to stop them.
The left gave the police and government a rationale for being draconian, while we removed the need for police and government entirely by providing security for the neighborhood (killing two birds with one stone). Either their methods are purely ignorant and do not work, or their methods are meant to achieve the opposite of their claims. In the end, the PC movement only serves establishment goals toward a fully collectivist and centralized society.  Their publicly stated intentions are otherwise pointless.
Your average PC drone does not understand the grander plan at work, nor does he want to. All he cares about is that he has found a “purpose” — a fabricated purpose as a useful idiot for power brokers, but a purpose nonetheless.
People Must Be Forced To Bake Gay Cakes
I personally do not care if two people of the same gender want to be in a relationship, but I do find the issue of gay marriage (and marriage in general) a rather odd conflict that misses the whole point. Marriage has been and always will be a religious institution, not federal; and I find government involvement in this institution to be rather despicable. When the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage came down, I felt a little sorry for all the joyfully hopping homosexuals on the marbled steps of the hallowed building, primarily because they essentially were fighting for the state to provide recognition and legitimacy for their relationships. Frankly, who gives a rip what the state has to say in terms of your relationships or mine? The state is an arbitrary edifice, a facade wielding illusory power. If a relationship is based on true and enduring connection, then that is all that matters, whether the Supreme Court dignifies it or not.
The only advantage to solidifying gay marriage in the eyes of the state is the advantage of being able to then use the state as an attack dog in order to force religious institutions to accept the status of gays in the same way the government does. And unfortunately, this is exactly what the PC cult is doing.  What they do not seem to understand is that recognition by the state does not necessarily translate to recognition by religious organizations, nor should it.
Should an individual, organization or business be allowed to refuse service to anyone for any reason? Should the state be allowed to force people into servitude to one group or another even if it is against their core values?
PC champions desperately try to make these questions a matter of “discrimination” alone. But they are more about personal rights and personal property and less about “hate speech.” Under natural law, as well as under the constitution, an individual has every right to refuse association with any other person for ANY reason. If I do not like you, the government does not have the authority to force me to be around you or to work for you. But this line has been consistently blurred over the years through legal chicanery. As I’m sure most readers are familiar, the issue of gay cakes seems to arise over and over, as in cases in Colorado and Oregon in which religiously oriented business owners were punished for refusing to provide service for gay customers.  Keep in mind, these businesses did not refuse outright service to gays.  What they did refuse, was to make gay wedding cakes.  To do so would have been in outright conflict with their religious principles.
Punishments have included crippling fines designed to put store owners out of business and have even included gag orders restricting the freedom of businesses to continue speaking out against the orientation of customers they have refused to do business with.
In order to validate such actions, leftists will invariably bring up segregation as a backdrop for the gay cake debate. “What if the customers were black,” they ask. “Is it OK for a business to be whites only?”
My response?  Yes, according the dictates of individual liberty, yes it is okay.
First, to be clear, I am talking specifically about private individuals and businesses, not public institutions as in the argument explored during Brown v. Board of Education. Private and public spaces are different issues with different nuances. I personally believe it is ignorant to judge someone solely on the color of his skin, and sexual orientation is not necessarily an issue to me. But it is equally ignorant for someone to think that the state exists to protect his feelings from being hurt. I’m sorry, but discrimination is a fact of life and always will be as long as individualism exists. The PC cultists don’t just want government recognition of their status; they want to homogenize individualism, erase it, and force the rest of us to vehemently approve of that status without question. This is unacceptable.
Your feelings do not matter. They are not superior in importance to the fundamental freedom of each individual to choose his associations.
If a business refuses to serve blacks, or gays, or Tibetans, then, hey, it probably just lost a lot of potential profit. But that should absolutely be the business’s choice and not up to the government to dictate. And in the case of “gay discrimination,” I think it is clear that the PC crowd is using the newfound legal victim group status of gays as a weapon to attack religiously based organizations. Make no mistake, this will not end with gay cakes. It is only a matter of time before pressure is brought to bear against churches as well for “discrimination.” And at the very least, I foresee many churches abandoning their 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.  Again, marriage has been and always will be a religious institution.  The PC crowd will not be happy with government recognition alone.  They want to force recognition from everyone.
If a group wants fair treatment in this world, that is one thing. I believe a gay person has every right to open HIS OWN bakery and bake gay marriage cakes to his little heart’s content. I believe a black person has every right to dislike white people, as some do, and refuse to associate with them or or do business with them if that’s what he/she wants. I also believe that under natural and constitutional law, a religious business owner is an independent and free individual with the right to choose who he will work for or accept money from. If he finds a customer’s behavior to be against his principles, he should not be forced to serve that person, their feelings be damned.
This is fair.
What is not fair is the use of government by some groups to gain an advantage over others based on the legal illusion of victim group status. PC cultists want us to think that choice of association is immoral and damaging to the group. I have to say I find them to be far more intolerant and dangerous than the people they claim to be fighting against, and this attitude is quickly devolving into full bore tyranny under the guise of “humanitarianism.”
Gender Bending Does Not Make You Special
A man shaves his head and eyebrows, straps a plastic bottle to his face, and has his feet surgically modified to resemble flippers: Does this make him a dolphin, and should he be given victim group status as trans-species? I’m going to be brief here because I covered this issue in a previous article, but let’s lay everything on the table, as it were...
PC cultists are clamoring to redefine the scientific FACT of gender as an “undefinable” and even discriminatory social perception. No one, no matter how dedicated, will EVER be able to redefine gender, unless they have the ability to change their very chromosomes. Nature defines gender, not man; and a man who undergoes numerous surgeries and body-changing steroid treatments will always have the genetics of a man even if he gives the appearance of a woman. Take away the drugs, and no amount of make-up will hide the chest hair growth and deepening voice.
This might be deemed a “narrow” view of gender, and I don’t care. Nature’s view of gender is the only one that counts. Psychological orientations are irrelevant to biological definitions. Are you a man trapped in a woman’s body? Irrelevant. A woman trapped in a man’s body? Doesn’t matter. If we are talking about legal bearings, then biological definitions are the only scale that makes sense. I realize that gender bending is very trendy right now, and Hollywood sure seems to want everyone to jump on that freaky disco bandwagon, but there is no such thing as gender-neutral people. They are not a group, let alone a victim group, and do not necessitate special attention or government protection. There are men, and there are women; these are the only gender groups that count. Whether they would like to be the opposite does not change the inherent genetic definition. Period. To make such foolishness into an ideology or a legal battle is to attempt to bewilder man’s relationship to nature, and this will only lead to social distraction and disaster.
There Is No Such Thing As ‘White Privilege’
A person determines his success in life by his character and his choices. Color does not define success, as there are many people of every color who are indeed successful. Do you have to work harder to gain success because you are brown, or black, or neon green? I’ve seen no concrete evidence that this is the case. I know that people who identify as “white” are still around 70% of the American population, thus there are more white people in successful positions only due to sheer numbers.
I know that I personally grew up in a low-wage household and had little to no financial help as I entered the working world. Everything I have accomplished in my life to this point was done alongside people of color, some of whom had far more advantages than I did. I cannot speak for other people’s experiences, but I can say that being white was never more important in my life than being stubborn and dedicated.
I also find it a little absurd that most PC cultists who harp about so-called white privilege are often white themselves and haven’t the slightest experience or insight on what it is to be a person of color anyway.  All of their concepts of discrimination are based purely on assumption. White privilege seems to be the PC cult’s answer to the argument that racism is a universal construct. Only whites can be racist, they claim, because only whites benefit from racism. I defy these jokers to show any tangible proof that an individual white person has more of a chance at success than a person of color due to predominant racism. Or are we just supposed to have blind faith in the high priests of PC academia and their morally relative roots?
The Cost Of Cultural Marxism
Marxism (collectivism) uses many vehicles or Trojan horses to gain access to political and cultural spaces. Once present, it gestates like cancer, erasing previous models of heritage and history in order to destroy any competing models of society.  If you want to understand what is happening in America today, I suggest you research the Chinese Cultural Revolution of the 1960's.  We are experiencing the same Marxist program of historical and social destruction, only slightly slower and more strategic.
Younger generations are highly susceptible to social trends and are often easily manipulated by popular culture and academic authority, which is why we are seeing PC cultism explode with the millennials and post-millennials. In my brief participation on the left side of the false paradigm, political correctness was only beginning to take hold. A decade later, the speed of the propaganda has far accelerated, and we now have a bewildering manure storm on our hands. The result is a vast division within American society that cannot be mended. Those of us on the side of liberty are so different in our philosophies and solutions to social Marxists that there can be no compromise.  The whole carnival can end only one way: a fight. And perhaps this is exactly what the elites want: left against right, black against white, gay against religious and straight, etc. As long as the PC movement continues to unwittingly do the bidding of power brokers in their efforts toward the destruction of individual liberty, I see no other alternative but utter conflict.

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